Deer farmers are embracing new industry standards, with many adopting ''clean zones'' for velvet production.

Many deer farmers are upgrading their sheds so velvet is harvested, handled, stored and transported in a clean environment following a new regulatory control scheme (RCS).

Under that scheme, about a third of all velvetting facilities will be audited each year by National Velvetting Standards Body auditors, who are now approved by MPI.

Farm adviser Wayne Allan agreed that a growing number of people were taking heed of the new regulations.


''The ones I deal with are taking it seriously,'' he said.

Mr Allan said most deer farmers did not have major work to do to their sheds.

The aim was to ensure they were clean, particularly for velvet export.

Deer Industry NZ quality assurance manager John Tacon said the regulatory bottom line was that all sheds must have a ''clean zone'' - a designated area where velvet antler is removed, handled and frozen.

All contact surfaces in that zone must be washable and clean prior to velvet removal and handling.

''As soon as practicable after harvesting, but within two hours, velvet also needs to be placed in a velvet-only freezer capable of freezing to at least -15degC.''

He expected standards could be ''ramped up'' in future, but believed the latest regulations were a good starting point.

''For some farmers, major upgrades have been needed. Others have had to only make minor refinements. And, while hygiene is the driver, the new and upgraded facilities we are seeing are often much better for the deer and those who work with them.''

Before velvet leaves the farm, farmers must now sign a velvet status declaration - a legal document which confirms the velvet has been removed in compliance with the RCS.
With the velvetting season under way, farmers had only had a few months to get their sheds up to spec, Mr Tacon said.

MPI was aware of that so had allowed some leniency, he said.

-By Alexia Johnston
Central Rural Life